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A personal relationship of trust is essential for conducting business in Malaysia. Handshakes are a typical greeting, but no physical conduct is expressed between the sexes except for handshakes. Only if a female extends her hand may a male then take the gesture. A “namaste” may also be used, which is a cultural greeting that involves touching both palms at heart level and making a slight bow. The namaste greeting is to be used to women of all races in Malaysia. Malaysians use titles to address superiors as a sign of respect. Titles such as Mr. or Madam are used to display this. English is used as the official language of business, but when conducting business with government officials the language used is Bahasa Malaysian. A translator will usually be used to translate the meeting into English. Making eye contact and being polite are key to business meetings in Malaysia. Avoid lecturing so that a strong relationship may be built because this is how business gets done in Malaysia. It is never okay to express anger in public or to criticize Malaysia customs and the way of life because saving face is a large part of society. It is typical to ask questions about personal life and personal views. If someone does not want to answer these questions they can attempt to side step them, but politeness must be observed. The word “no” is not used often in Malaysia because it has other meanings such as “maybe” or “I agree” because it is a high context culture. Time is also not a top priority and business deals may take longer than expected so patience is needed.

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Given the multiethnicity of the Malaysian population it is important to be sensitive to religious and cultural issues: the official religion is Islam but Malaysia has a multicultural population and other religious groups are present as well, the population consists of Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous people. The population as of February 2007 is 26.6 million consisting of 62% Malays, 24% Chinese, 8% Indians, with other minorities and indigenous groups.

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What do you see? Source: Exploring culture Hofstede et al. 2002

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Other people saw… A woman giving a man money and he’s claiming he wants more A woman trying to bribe a man A woman asking the way and a man orienting her A discussion among friends A violent discussion A quarrel. She has insulted him in some way EVERYONE IS RIGHT!

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WHY EVERYONE IS RIGHT? Because everyone is looking at the picture from their own cultural lenses. To everyone their culture is the norm.

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So what? We need to respect others culture because; Lack of intercultural awareness may: adversely affect relationships lead to long-term misunderstanding and mistrust of another culture result in lost opportunities in business/professional life

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7 Notes on Culture There is no “right” or “wrong” or “better” culture – only differences between cultures People think of their culture as the norm Ethnocentrism – belief that one’s culture is superior Sub-cultures, regional differences, individuality

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CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND PERCEPTIONS Anthropologists discovered that, when faced by interaction that we do not understand, people tend to interpret the others involved as "abnormal", "weird” or "wrong." Awareness of cultural differences and recognizing where cultural differences are at work is the first step toward understanding each other and establishing a positive working environment. Use these differences to challenge your own assumptions.

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CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE Cultural intelligence refers to a person’s capability to adapt effectively to new cultural contexts. This definition is not at all at odds with existing definitions of general or cognitive intelligence. 

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Country The Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsula Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

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Facts and Climate Country Name: State of Malaysia Area: 329,750 sq km(204,445 sq mi) Capital City: Kuala Lumpur (pop 1.2 million) Climate: hot and humid year round Average 90% humidity Population: 27.17 million

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Religion & Language Islam is official religion Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism Bahasa Malaysia is national language English, Chinese and Indian dialects

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14 21/04/2010 Malaysia: behaviors Only do business with people you know No contact between sexes except for handshakes or a “Salam” Use of titles for superiors English is the language of business except for with government officials Making eye contact and being polite Typically O.K. to ask personal questions Appointments are to be scheduled a minimum of 2 weeks in advance

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21/04/2010 15 Malaysia: expectations Establishing a productive business relationship requires long term commitment Negotiations are slow and protracted Several visits and discussions with Malaysians needed before decision making phase Developing personal relationship with Malaysian counterpart Never assume that a signed contract is a final agreement Negotiations continue after a contract has been signed Take religious differences into account Difficult to enter in in-depth discussion Appropriate follow-up is crucial to the success of a business visit

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DR. ADALAT KHAN  -CROSS CULTURAL EXPERT Dr Adalat Khan is the founder and President of Mina Resources Sdn Bhd, a leading Malaysian accredited training organization. He is a foremost authority, Facilitator, leader and speaker in the fields of Cross-cultural communication, Human Relations, Expatriate relocation and adjustment, management, leadership, customer service, and train the trainer subjects. How to contact: Dr. Adalat Khan President MINA RESOURCES SDN BHD 119- Jalan Kampar, 30250, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. TEL: 605-2415722 FAX: 605-2536943 Internet-E-mail: E-mail: or

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Any Questions ?

Summary: Most expats come to Malaysia because they want to. If this is the case, when you feel an attack of the "expat blues", remind yourself why you wanted to come here in the first place. Chances are you came to Malaysia to experience a different culture - food, people, destinations, arts etc. One of the worst cures for "expat blues" is to seek the advice of another expat with the blues - your complaints will magnify out of all proportions!

Tags: cross-cultural training for malaysia dr adalat khan mina resources sdn bhd

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